Unearthly Times

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant

The Waters of Mars


N.B. there might (or might not) be spoilers in this article!

You might think that choosing to watch The Waters of Mars with my daughter shortly before running her a bath was not the brightest parenting idea I’ve ever had, but she’d seen The Conjuring the night before and had been suitably toughened up for scares!

“Water is patient.”

The Doctor, The Waters of Mars

And The Waters of Mars is pretty scary stuff! The water monsters / flood creatures are among the most disturbing the show has ever had. The Waters of Mars is arguably also one of Doctor Who‘s bleakest ever episodes (although the penultimate episode of Inferno remains another contender for that title).

It’s not all super-creepy scary monsters, though. In a nice, if obvious, touch, the Mars base is named Bowie Base One, and while, at its core, The Waters of Mars is essentially a base-under-siege story, it’s one with a twist.

(Incidentally, I do love RTD’s description of base-under-siege stories, given in the Doctor Who Confidential episode that accompanied The Waters of Mars: “Here’s the cast. Now watch them die.” And this is a super supporting cast that he almost kills off too — including Lindsay Duncan, Shane Ramsay and a future Eternal.)

“The laws of time are mine!”

The Doctor, The Waters of Mars

This time, the Doctor knows what’s going to happen and, due to it being a so-called ‘fixed point in time’, can’t or won’t do anything about it. I’ve always found there to be something oddly fatalistic (or perhaps it’s deterministic?) about the concept of the ‘fixed point in time’, almost as if at these points, free will becomes the illusion the Doctor had once feared it might be (Inferno again!).

I might be over-thinking it. Indeed the ‘fixed point in time’ might simply be 21st-century Who’s snappier variation on the old ‘you can’t rewrite history! Not one line!’ proclamation the Doctor way made back in The Aztecs. As concepts go, it’s a powerful one, though. Even Daleks adhere to it.

It has to be said that David Tennant is astonishingly good here, whether it’s in dealing with the anguish of his ‘fixed point’ knowledge or in the emergent arrogance that comes of realising there are no more Time Lords left to stop him changing history if he wants to. Of course, it’s in The Waters of Mars we’re introduced to the concept of Time Lord Victorious. It doesn’t last long (in a way, thankfully — for that ‘little people’ comment truly stings), but there may well be more TLV to come later.